How does your brain work? Mine may be normal or it may be funky...I’m not really certain. What I do know is that when I considered the question framed for us this week, “How do you define success?” my brain rocketed back to 1987. The Secret of My Success starring Michael J. Fox (aka Marty McFly) was released the month before I graduated high school. I don’t really remember much about the movie, but I distinctly remember the theme song by ‘80’s hair band Night Ranger. The chorus went like this:
Worlds collide and hearts will be broken
Over and over it's the same every day-
How can I say what has never concerned me
The secret of my success is I'm living 25 hours a day
Honestly, I went back and listened to the song again for the first time in what had to be 25 years. It features that typical, late-80’s fusion of pop rock and synthesizers. And while the chorus was catchy (the only thing I remembered), the rest of it is completely forgettable.
What strikes me about the lyrics is just the message. It just boils down to this: there’s gonna be collateral damage, but I’m not concerned. I’ve just got to hustle to make it all happen.
Seems very modern. Seems very practical. And it seems like common sense...unless your life is rooted in Jesus.
As we continue wrestling with the Terrible Advice of Jesus, we see that the economy in the Kingdom of God turns the world’s advice on its head. In Matthew 19:21,ff, Jesus tells the man we know as the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
We know the story...the young man goes away crestfallen because he was very wealthy. Even Jesus’ disciples struggle to realize the truth when Peter asks Jesus: “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne...everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”
Success in God’s economy boils down to this: give it away. Give away whatever it is that impedes your progress to being like Jesus. And it’s not about money. Using your time, talents, gifts and abilities while elevating others above yourself is the way of the cross. Unlearning the things that make sense to us all while embracing this prayer, “More like you, Jesus. Make me more and more like you!” That's how we succeed in the Kingdom.
The world might call it terrible advice, but the truth is that embracing this way of sacrifice and service will save your life.